Movie Review : I Don't Feel at Home in this World Anymore (2017)
The name Macon Blair might not ring any bell, but you know who he is. He made a name for himself in Jeremy Saulnier's movies Blue Ruin and Green Room, which have become contemporary cult classics. Well, it appears Macon Blair has moved to writing and directing and his debut movie I don't Feel at Home in this World Anymore has set Sundance Film Festival on fire and taken Netflix by storm with a worldwide release. That movie might look like a second-rate mumblecore fiasco on first-sight, but don't let it fool you. It's a fucking riot. There's been a million movies made about the "system" not caring about you. There's been a million movies made about citizens taking justice into their own hands. There has NEVER been a fucking movie about these subjects that showed any desire to be realistic AND that had a sense of humor about itself.
I don't Feel at Home in this World Anymore is the story of Ruth (Melanie Lynskey), an awkward nursing assistant suffering from depression, who is burglarized one day after leaving her front door unlocked. Nothing life-altering was stolen: her laptop, her beloved late grandmother's silverware, but that's about it. But Ruth is depressed and growing increasingly nihilistic going through this ordeal, so she teams up with her neighbor Tony, a lonely weirdo with a passion for martial arts and shitty eighties music, in order to retriever her property and confront the people who treated her with so little consideration. Ruth is about to learn that what happened to her wasn't about her silverware or about people willingly being assholes to her. The string of robberies she happens to have been a victim of has a greater and darker scope than she could've imagined.
This is a movie about vigilantism. About people taking responsibility for settling injustices they suffered. What makes I don't Feel at Home in this World Anymore beautiful is that it's a reaction to movies that take vigilantism too seriously. The elements of a conventional vigilante movie are all present: a quiet, law-abiding citizen is wronged; the "system" refuses to treat her claim seriously; she meets a directionless sidekick with convenient superpowers; and of course, together they unearth a conspiracy the "system" didn't even notice. I don't Feel at Home in this World Anymore is self-conscious about what it is. Only it subverts every trope it addresses: Ruth is robbed because she left her front door unlocked and her depression getting the best of her leads to her retaliation; the uncooperative "system" she faces is just an incompetent cop overwhelmed by his own divorce; her sidekick is a creepy nerd and the conspiracy she unearths didn't involve her until she made herself a part of it.
Even the villains in this movie are on point. They are a soulless and unrepentant menace like most vigilante movie villains. They reminded me of the soulless baddies of Death Wish a little bit. While the bad guys are 100% in the wrong here, they're successful anyway because Macon Blair doesn't judge them. You never really know what their business really is, Ruth just naively stumbles upon it and triggers an absurdly violent chain reaction by disrupting meticulously planned criminal activity. It's never really explained what the source of tension between Christian (Devon Graye) and his father is, but it doesn't seem like it's anybody's business anyway. By wanting an apology for the disruption of her intimacy, Ruth has stumbled upon a volatile situation, endangered herself, Tony and did nothing productive with these good intentions in general.
The direction of Macon Blair is another factor that contributes to the success ofI don't Feel at Home in this World Anymore. It's subtle and understated, yet it's deliberate. There's a scene where Ruth calls the police after tracking her stolen laptop, which is framed by Macon Blair using her appliances: on the lower part of the screen, you can seen the oven; on the right side you can see the fridge and on top left you can see frames on the wall. I don't Feel at Home in this World Anymore is full of visual details like this that allude to Ruth as being a normal person that is oppressed by her reality and "normalcy". She's not an avatar of justice, a dark avenger or anyone invested with a mission greater than her. She's just overwhelmingly normal. That's why I believe it was crucial that a woman needed to lead that movie because men are the ones who believe themselves imbued with such importance. Women are the ones who try to survive and get along with people and Melanie Lynskey more than delivered as Ruth.
I don't Feel at Home in this World Anymore is a success in and of itself. It would be unfair to ask of a movie to be anything more than a killer movie and this movie is as witty and original as anything I've seen this year. How it will be remembered is up to you, beautiful people. I don't Feel at Home in this World Anymore doesn't have any major studio push behind it, just like Blue Ruin and Green Room didn't before it. And you know what? I think I've enjoyed I don't Feel at Home in this World Anymore just a TINY bit better. All three movies are excellent, but the latter is more in my personal wheelhouse. It's on Netflix, you can watch it at home, free of charge, and have a good fucking time with a movie that doesn't feel like you've seen it a gazillion times, so why not, right? It's Friday and you may or may not have something better to do with weekend, but a smart movie that is also a good time doesn't come any more free and accessible than that.